Sunday, June 8

What to Look for In Game 2

I still have the bloody fingernail stubs to show how much I enjoyed Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Fortunately, Game 2 offers the Lakers an opportunity for redemption after letting the last game slip through their fingers. Here are a few things I'll be looking at.

1) Paul Pierce's Health - I don't believe Pierce faked his injury, but I do believe he and the Celtics' trainers overreacted in the extreme. His return didn't inspire the Celtics so much as throw the Lakers off balance. How are you supposed to guard an injured player who doesn't play as if he's injured? Assuming The Truth is not at 100%, the Lakers should challenge him to put the ball on the floor instead of giving him open looks that led to back to back three pointers in Game 1.

2) Celtics Defense - Kobe and Paul Gasol have run the pick and roll to near perfection throughout the series. The Spurs were the only team to adjust and begin guarding against it, but that didn't happen until late in their series when it was too little too late. But KG and Co. made adjustments after the first half of Game 1 and anticipated several of Kobe's passes, which led to repeated turnovers in the final minutes of the game and stalled any comeback attempt. I'll be checking to see if the Celtics continue to defend the pick and roll and whether Kobe and the Lakers can make the adjustments.

3) Lakers Shooters - What killed me in that first game was how many open shots the Lakers missed. Kobe, Sasha, Walton, and Fisher all repeatedly rimmed out their shots. If the Lakers can drill their unguarded looks then I expect them to come out on top.

4) Keeping the Score Close - The early Lakers deficit in Game 1 forced Phil Jackson to shuffle his normal bench rotation. Kobe stayed on the court longer than usual and the lack of rest limited his and the Lakers ability to make a run in the second half. Look for the Lakers to come out with energy and keep the score close so they can rest their starters and finish Game 2 with a flourish.